Top 50 Movie Directors

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1.
Steven Spielberg
Undoubtedly one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Spielberg has countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, as producer, director and writer...
 
2.
William Wyler
Director, Ben-Hur
William Wyler was an American filmmaker who, at the time of his death in 1981, was considered by his peers as second only to John Ford as a master craftsman of cinema. The winner of three Best Director Academy Awards, second again only to Ford's four, Wyler's reputation has unfairly suffered as...
 
3.
Martin Scorsese
Martin Charles Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in Queens, New York City, to Catherine Scorsese (née Cappa) and Charles Scorsese, who both worked in Manhattan's garment district, and whose families both came from Palermo, Sicily. He was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later provided the inspiration for several of his films...
 
4.
Fred Zinnemann
Director, High Noon
Initially grew up wanting to be a violinist, but while at the University of Vienna decided to study law. While doing so, he became increasingly interested in American film and decided that was what he wanted to do. He became involved in European filmaking for a short time before going to America to study film.
 
5.
Billy Wilder
Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city's largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933...
 
6.
David Lean
An important British filmmaker, David Lean was born in Croydon in 1908 and brought up in a strict Quaker family (ironically, as a child he wasn't allowed to go to the movies). During the 1920s he briefly considered the possibility of becoming an accountant like his father before finding a job at Gaumont British Studios in 1927...
 
7.
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan, known for his creative stage direction, was born "Elia Kazanjoglous" in Istanbul in 1909 to Greek parents. He directed such Broadway plays as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". He directed the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire and also films written for the screen...
 
8.
Clint Eastwood
Perhaps the icon of macho movie stars, and a living legend, Clint Eastwood has become a standard in international cinema. Born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the elder of two children in a middle-class family, Eastwood finished high school at the comparatively late age of 19 and worked odd jobs for several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
 
9.
John Ford
Director, The Searchers
John Ford came to Hollywood following one of his brothers, an actor. Asked what brought him to Hollywood, he replied "The train". He became one of the most respected directors in the business, in spite of being known for his westerns, which were not considered "serious" film. He won six Oscars, counting (he always did) the two that he won for his WWII documentary work...
 
10.
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in a New York suburb in a creative, supportive Italian-American family. His father, Carmine Coppola, was a composer and musician. His mother, Italia Coppola (née Pennino), had been an actress. Francis Ford Coppola graduated with a degree in drama from Hofstra University...
 
11.
John Huston
An eccentric rebel of epic proportions, this Hollywood titan reigned supreme as director, screenwriter and character actor in a career that endured over five decades. The ten-time Oscar-nominated legend was born John Marcellus Huston in Nevada, Missouri, on August 5, 1906. His ancestry included English...
 
12.
Frank Capra
One of seven children, Frank Capra was born on May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily. On May 10, 1903, his family left for America aboard the ship Germania, arriving in New York on May 23rd. "There's no ventilation, and it stinks like hell. They're all miserable. It's the most degrading place you could ever be," Capra said about his Atlantic passage...
 
13.
Woody Allen
Writer, Annie Hall
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...
 
14.
George Stevens
Director, Giant
George Stevens, a filmmaker known as a meticulous craftsman with a brilliant eye for composition and a sensitive touch with actors, is one of the great American filmmakers, ranking with John Ford, William Wyler and Howard Hawks as a creator of classic Hollywood cinema, bringing to the screen mytho-poetic worlds that were also mass entertainment...
 
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16.
Robert Wise
Robert Earl Wise was born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Indiana, the youngest of three sons of Olive R. (Longenecker) and Earl Waldo Wise, a meat packer. His parents were both of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent. At age nineteen, the avid moviegoer came into the film business through an odd job at RKO Radio Pictures...
 
17.
Oliver Stone
Director, Platoon
Oliver Stone has become known as a master of controversial subjects and a legendary film maker. His films are filled with a variety of film angles and styles, he pushes his actors to give Oscar-worthy performances, and despite his failures, has always returned to success. William Oliver Stone was born in New York City...
 
18.
Sidney Lumet
Director, 12 Angry Men
Sidney Lumet was a master of cinema, best known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors -- and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York. He made over 40 movies, often complex and emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. Although his politics were somewhat left-leaning and he often treated socially relevant themes in his films...
 
19.
Milos Forman
Milos Forman was born Jan Tomas Forman in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, to Anna (Svabova), who ran a summer hotel, and Rudolf Forman, a professor. During World War II, his parents were taken away by the Nazis, after being accused of participating in the underground resistance. His father died in Buchenwald and his mother died in Auschwitz...
 
20.
Ang Lee
Director, Life of Pi
Born in 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Ang graduated from the National Taiwan College of Arts in 1975 and then came to the U.S. to receive a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater Direction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Masters Degree in Film Production at New York University...
 
21.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on February 11, 1909, Joseph Leo Mankiewicz first worked for the movies as a translator of intertitles, employed by Paramount in Berlin, the UFA's American distributor at the time (1928). He became a dialoguist, then a screenwriter on numerous Paramount productions in Hollywood...
 
22.
Mike Nichols
Director, Closer
He, along with the other members of the "Compass Players" including Elaine May, Paul Sills, Byrne Piven, Joyce Hiller Piven and Edward Asner helped start the famed "Second City Improv" company. They used the games taught to them by fellow cast mate, Paul Sills 's mother, Viola Spolin...
 
23.
Alfred Hitchcock
Director, Psycho
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, Essex, England. He was the son of Emma Jane (Whelan; 1863 - 1942) and East End greengrocer William Hitchcock (1862 - 1914). His parents were both of half English and half Irish ancestry. He had two older siblings, William Hitchcock (born 1890) and Eileen Hitchcock (born 1892)...
 
24.
Vincente Minnelli
Director, Gigi
Born Lester Anthony Minnelli in Chicago on February 28 1903, his father Vincent was a musical conductor of the Minnelli Brothers' Tent Theater. Wanting to pursue an artistic career, Minelli worked in the costume department of the Chicago Theater, then on Broadway during the depression as a set designer and costumer...
 
25.
Michael Curtiz
Director, Casablanca
The director Michael Curtiz was an American director of Hungarian origin and an Oscar-winner. He received his diploma from the School for Dramatic Arts in 1906. He then went to live in Pécs, then in Szeged. Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. The next year...
 
26.
Robert Altman
Director, Gosford Park
Robert Altman was born on February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, to B.C. (an insurance salesman) and Helen Altman. He entered St. Peters Catholic school at the age six, and spent a short time at a Catholic high school. From there, he went to Rockhurst High School. It was then that he started exploring the art of exploring sound with the cheap tape recorders available at the time...
 
27.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Alejandro González Iñárritu (ih-nyar-ee-too), born August 15th, 1963, is a Mexican film director. González Iñárritu is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and by the Directors Guild of America for Best Director. He is also the first Mexican-born director to have won the Prix de la mise en scene or best director award at Cannes (2006)...
 
28.
Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8 movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies, which he made with his friends...
 
29.
Stanley Kubrick
Director, The Shining
Stanley Kubrick was born in Manhattan, New York City, to Sadie Gertrude (Perveler) and Jacob Leonard Kubrick, a physician. His family were Jewish immigrants (from Austria, Romania, and Russia). Stanley was considered intelligent, despite poor grades at school. Hoping that a change of scenery would produce better academic performance...
 
32.
Ron Howard
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard is one of this generation's most popular directors. From the critically acclaimed dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13 to the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, he has created some of Hollywood's most memorable films. Howard directed and produced "Cinderella Man" starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe...
 
33.
Henry King
For more than three decades, Henry King was the most versatile and reliable (not to mention hard-working) contract director on the 20th Century-Fox lot. His tenure lasted from 1930 to 1961, spanning most of Hollywood's "golden" era. King was renowned as a specialist in literary adaptations (A Bell for Adano...
 
34.
Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd was an unpretentious, technically skilled director, who crafted several enduring Hollywood classics during the 1930's. He started out as a stage actor and singer in early 1900's London and was well-known as an imitator of Harry Lauder. After several years in music hall and with touring repertory companies...
 
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36.
James Cameron
Writer, Aliens
James Francis Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. He moved to the United States in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University but, after graduating, drove a truck to support his screenwriting ambition. He landed his first professional film job as art director...
 
37.
Sydney Pollack
Director, Tootsie
Sydney Pollack was an Academy Award-winning director, producer, actor, writer and public figure, who directed and produced over 40 films. Sydney Irwin Pollack was born July 1, 1934 in Lafayette, Indiana, USA, to Rebecca (Miller), a homemaker, and David Pollack, a professional boxer turned pharmacist...
 
38.
Norman Jewison
Producer, The Hurricane
Norman Frederick Jewison was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Dorothy Irene (Weaver) and Percy Joseph Jewison, who managed a post office and a convenience store. His mother was an English immigrant, and his father was of English and Ulster-Scots descent. Jewison got his BA at Victoria College, University of Toronto...
 
39.
John Schlesinger
Director, Midnight Cowboy
Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, who was born in London, on February 16, 1926, was the eldest child in a solidly middle-class Jewish family. Berbard Schlesinger, his father, was a pediatrician, and his mother, Winifred, was a musician. He served in the Army in the Far East during World War II...
 
40.
Lewis Milestone
Lewis Milestone, a clothing manufacturer's son, was born in Bessarabia (now Moldova), raised in Odessa (Ukraine) and educated in Belgium and Berlin (where he studied engineering). He was fluent in both German and Russian and an avid reader. Milestone had an affinity for the theatre from an early age...
 
42.
Robert Redford
Charles Robert Redford, Jr. was born on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California, to Martha (Hart), from Texas, and Charles Robert Redford, an accountant for Standard Oil, who was originally from Connecticut. He is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955, the year after he graduated from high school...
 
43.
Roman Polanski
Director, The Pianist
Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers. Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933. His parents returned to Poland from France in 1936, three years before World War II began...
 
44.
William Friedkin
Director, The Exorcist
Friedkin's mother was an operating room nurse. His father was a merchant seaman, semi-pro softball player and ultimately sold clothes in a men's discount chain. Ultimately, his father never earned more than $50/week in his whole life and died indigent. Eventually young Will became infatuated with Orson Welles after seeing Citizen Kane...
 
45.
Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. Following his commercial breakthrough with the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), his best known works are the noir science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), crime drama Thelma & Louise (1991), historical drama and Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator (2000)...
 
46.
Richard Brooks
Richard Brooks was an Academy Award-winning film writer who also earned six Oscar nominations and achieved success as a film director and producer. He was born Ruben Sax on May 18, 1912, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants. He graduated from West Philadelphia HS...
 
47.
Barry Levinson
Producer, Sleepers
Barry Levinson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Violet (Krichinsky) and Irvin Levinson, who worked in furniture and appliance. He is of Russian Jewish descent. Levinson graduated from high school in 1960, attended college at American University in Washington, DC. He did well, but decided he wanted to go to Los Angeles...
 
48.
Clarence Brown
Director, National Velvet
Clarence Leon Brown was the son of Larkin Harry and Catherine Ann (Gaw) Brown of Clinton, Massachusetts. His family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Knoxville High School in 1905 and from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in mechanical and electrical engineering in 1912...
 
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50.
Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director whose films are known for their colorful visual style, was born in Parma, Italy, in 1940. He attended Rome University and became famous as a poet. He served as assistant director for Pier Paolo Pasolini in the film Accattone and directed The Grim Reaper. His second film...